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Transcript of interview with Charles T. "Blackie" Hunt by Cork Proctor, July 3, 2003


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Charles T. "Blackie" Hunt, born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania in 1930, started accordion lessons at age five. He recounts learning from experienced musicians, then teaching others at age twelve because his teacher was drafted. He attended West Chester State Teachers College where, among other accomplishments, he put together a group with Nick Carlino as tenor sax player. Blackie shares detailed memories of the many musicians with whom he worked and toured. They played in venues that included Harrisburg, Toronto, and Montreal, and eventually were offered a booking at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. The group that Blackie worked with in Las Vegas, Tahoe, and Reno came up with the name "The Characters" (backward 'e'), and the show featured comedy and music. It was during this time that he met Lorraine (stage name Lauri Perry), who had her own group. They were married after a couple of years and Lauri joined The Characters. Blackie and Lorraine Hunt opened Blackie's Bar on Tropicana and Eastern Avenues in the seventies. He talks about the jazz sessions that took place and the musicians who sat in on them, and how he and Lorraine eventually decided to bow out of show business themselves. The Hunts went on to open the Bootlegger, a restaurant/piano bar on Las Vegas Boulevard. They started a little comedy/music session called "Off the Cuff', in which local or touring musicians, comedians, and singers often participate. Blackie and Lorraine have been part of the vibrant history of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada for many years, and continue to make their home here.

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[Transcript of interview with Charles T. "Blackie" Hunt by Cork Proctor, July 3, 2003]. Hunt, Charles T. "Blackie" Interview, 2003 July 3. OH-02105. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections & Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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An Interview with Charles T. “Blackie” Hunt An Oral History Conducted by Cork Proctor All That Jazz Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ©All That Jazz Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2009 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV - University Libraries Directory: Claytee D. White Editor: Gloria Homol Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers: Lisa Gioria-Acres, Joyce Moore, Emily Powers, Claytee D. White These recorded interviews and transcripts have been made possible through the generosity of Dr. Harold Boyer and the Boyer Foundation. The Oral History Research Center enabled students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. Participants in the All That Jazz Oral History Project thank the university for the support given that allowed the idea of researching the history of musicians who played in bands and orchestras behind great performers on the entertainment stages of Las Vegas the opportunity to flourish. All transcripts received minimal editing that included the elimination of fragments, false starts and repetitions in order to enhance the researcher's understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases, photographic images accompany the collection and have been included in the bound edition of the interview. Claytee D. White, Project Director Director, Oral History Research Center University of Nevada Las Vegas - University Libraries Table of Contents Bom 1930 in Pottstown, PA; accordion lessons from age five; teaching at Bill Lamb studio from age 12; studying music at West Chester State Teachers College; formed group with tenor sax player Nick Carlino; emulated Ernie Felice style, which had a Glen Miller sound; mention of George Shearing, Bill Murray; created group called The Four Buds to help finance college; joined Mary Johnston group; fan of Lenny Cristiano’s jazz style; went with the Charlie Morrison group (included Dale Moore), which led to comedy inclusion; hired by Carmen and Freddie Baccari; gigs in Canada; hired by Bill Miller at Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas...............................................................1-10 Rebooked at Sahara; discussion of group name change (credit given to Larry Sloan); 13 years at Sahara Hotel, with gigs in Tahoe and Reno; left The Characters, went with Frank Ross from Mary Kaye Trio for two years; rejoined The Characters around 1970; Sammy Davis, Jr. invited them to go on road; invitation accepted, worked in Florida and Canada; next job at International Hilton in Vegas; met and married Lauri Perry (now Lorraine Hunt); opened Blackie’s Bar with Lauri; mention of Pete Barbutti and Carl Fontana stopping in; next business was Bootlegger Bistro; remembering installment of mini-grand piano; “goofing around” with Sonny King; creating Off the Cuff routine; mention of Freddie Bell, Frankie Randall, Bemie Allen, Jimmy Hopper, and others who sit in....................................................................................11-20 Further discussion of Jimmy Hopper, Bill Dixon (organist with The Characters); anecdotes about Freddie and Bill at the Sahara Country Club; discussion on reasons The Characters never made it big; anecdote concerning Blackie and Freddie fighting, then having to do Chicken Little routine; discussion about Italian connections.............21-30 Remembering marathon trips from Vegas to Reno and the occasional accident; recalling the stress of being on the road; anecdote about booking in Butte, Montana; favorite venue was Sahara Lounge; story about Don Rickies, The Characters, and the Ku Klux Klan; discussion on dealing with groupies; memories of working in San Francisco when JFK was assassinated; recalling other venues over the years; advice for younger comedians and musicians; mention of Sonny and Cher act with Kelly Clinton; opinions on what it takes to make it out of the lounge shows and onto the national scene; comments on Clint Holmes’ career; closing comments on coming to national attention by appearing on well- known television shows................................................................31-43 IV Preface Charles T. “Blackie” Hunt, bom in Pottstown, Pennsylvania in 1930, started accordion lessons at age five. He recounts learning from experienced musicians, then teaching others at age twelve because his teacher was drafted. He attended West Chester State Teachers College where, among other accomplishments, he put together a group with Nick Carlino as tenor sax player. Blackie shares detailed memories of the many musicians with whom he worked and toured. They played in venues that included Harrisburg, Toronto, and Montreal, and eventually were offered a booking at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. The group that Blackie worked with in Las Vegas, Tahoe, and Reno came up with the name “The Characters” (backward ‘e’), and the show featured comedy and music. It was during this time that he met Lorraine (stage name Lauri Perry), who had her own group. They were married after a couple of years and Lauri joined The Characters. Blackie and Lorraine Hunt opened Blackie’s Bar on Tropicana and Eastern Avenues in the seventies. He talks about the jazz sessions that took place and the musicians who sat in on them, and how he and Lorraine eventually decided to bow out of show business themselves. The Hunts went on to open the Bootlegger, a restaurant/piano bar on Las Vegas Boulevard. They started a little comedy/music session called “Off the Cuff’, in which local or touring musicians, comedians, and singers often participate. Blackie and Lorraine have been part of the vibrant history of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada for many years, and continue to make their home here. v 1 Carmen, Freddie, Blackie, Johnny Riccobini, who started in the 50s and wound up working for many, many years in Vegas lounges. So here we go with Blackie Hunt, known as Charles T., currently the husband of our lieutenant governor as we speak, Lorraine Hunt. So this should be good, Joyce. Hang on. Okay. Here we are with Blackie Hunt just returning from his beautiful well-tiled men's room in the Bootlegger on 777 — Thank you for your indulgence, sir. Yes. And both hands. Thank you. -- 7777 South Las Vegas Boulevard, where the people from the Blue Diamond turnoff usually wind up in the parking lot upside down. Actually it's 7770. Oh, is it? I beg your pardon. Ah, too many sevens in there. Anyway, seven out. So Blackie, I'm going to just let you roll. And you start from the get-go. I know we're in the same age frame. We don't have to talk about how many years we've been on the terra firma. But let's hear about the childhood and the brothers and sisters, siblings, and music. And you just go ahead on. I was bom in 1930, which makes me as of today whatever it is, 72, approaching 73. I don't feel any older than maybe 70 or 71. Well, you certainly look good for your age. Thank you very much. I was bom in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, which is right outside of Philadelphia. It's probably part of Philadelphia these days because the suburbs have moved out quite a distance. I went to school there. My first instrument was accordion. I still love the accordion, although at my age it's pretty tough to hold a regular-sized accordion. So in the act now I use a little bitty one. It doesn't play too good. Well, maybe it's me. I don't know. It sounds fine. I started taking lessons at age five. Everything went pretty good. I was never forced to practice. I gave it up several times. For some reason I was drawn back to it and just kept going back. And there were times when I used to time my practice period of a half-hour and couldn't wait until it 2 was over and then there were other times when I'd just run over because evidently I started to feel something that I had to complete at that particular moment. Anyway, I took my lessons and so forth. I was about 11 — I'm not too sure anymore -- either 11 or 12 years old. My teacher, accordion teacher was drafted. And I was taking lessons at a studio in my hometown, Bill Lamb Studio. They taught all the different instruments. And he had the local concert band. He was sort of my mentor, Bill Lamb — not sort of, he was my mentor. In fact, he kept me in his house for, oh jeez, maybe about a year. And he was the lead trumpet player during the war, World War II. Mr. Lamb, Bill, was the lead trumpet player with the official U.S. Army Field Band, which was the biggest you could be. He was the best. In fact, after that he was with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians as lead trumpet. And he was just somebody I admired so much. Was he a jazz player, Blackie? No, he wasn't. Just a good legit trumpet player. A legit trumpet player. I mean he was just the best. John Philip Sousa introduced him at a concert and featured him. He was just a guy I learned a lot from. Anyway, I was about either 11 or just turned 12 and my teacher was drafted. And I happened to be the most advanced student in the accordion area. And there was nobody else in town that played better than I did. So they asked me if I would consider teaching. And I said, well, yeah. I said but I don't think the parents are going to like that. Anyway - When you're younger than the students. Actually, the former teacher had about 12 students, of which I was one. Six of them didn't stay. But six of the parents gave me the okay and they stayed with me. In fact, one of the kids that stayed with me after I left town at about the age of 20 - I left teaching — he took over. And he was the accordion teacher from there on in. So I must have done okay as a teacher. I enjoyed it because I learned so much while I was teaching. It's just an amazing, amazing thing that happens. I'm going to cut you off because your food is hot and we can come back to this. Blackie will return and tell us more exciting tales about his accordion teaching skills after he eats his beautiful linguini, which is steaming. 3 Now Blackie has finished his expensive linguini and clams. No shells, thank you. Lunching at the Bootlegger. So here you are. Now you're teaching. You're, what, like 13, 14 years old? Yeah. Yeah. By the time I finished high school — I had about 30 students I used to teach after school and so forth. Now, after that I didn't know what to do. I had been playing with dance bands and things like that and doing concerts because I was really probably one of the first guys that did the classics on the accordion. And if I had known then what I know today, things would have changed a little bit as far as — I used to take the — because I had access at the music store to all the symphonic arrangements. So I used to take particularly violin concertos and do the right hand, you know, the violin part on my right hand. Then I would study the accompaniment and analyze that and put that into the basses of the accordion. And later on people did do — they call it transcribing I guess. But I didn't think about it at that point. Anyway, it's a part of my life where I didn't think fast enough. But anyway, I didn't know where to go. So everybody from that area — that Pottstown area was very music conscious. And most of the kids that played or were in high school bands, they all went to what was then known as West Chester State Teachers College. It's now known as West Chester University. And they had two majors there. They had the majors Phys Ed and Music. And, of course, there was always fun between the music soups and the Phys Ed guys. There was always that thing. Sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry; that's a good word for it. In a way it was fun. For some reason I was able to get along with the Phys Ed people. I don't know why. I wasn't very hip or hep or whatever the term was in those days. Hemp, H-E-M-P. Hemp. But for some reason I was able — I just sort of hit it off with them. And they more or less stuck up for me and protected me in a way. I had that same thing when I was a kid, come to think of it. A black boy befriended me when I was like nine years old. And this kid, he saved me many a fight because I knew his name, Howard Charles. That's all I had to say was Howard Charles. Probably Sonny's father. Inside joke. 4 Right. Anyway, whenever I'd get into a little hassle or whatever or somebody was trying to do something to me, another black kid, I'd say you know Howard Charles? You know Howard Charles? Yeah. Ooh. Hey, nice seeing you, man. That's funny. But I've been lucky that way through my life. I really only ever had one fistfight. That was in school with another white kid that played bassoon. And for some reason I got very cocky. You wanted to fix his lips. Yes. Well, he fixed me, man, real fast. We became friends after that and so forth. Anyway, I went to West Chester State Teachers College. I didn't graduate. During the first summer break I put a group together with a tenor sax player by the name of Nick Carlino, who was going to college there. Nick was with I think it was - what group? They worked Harold's Club. Nick Carlino. Oh. The Tune Timers. Tune Jesters. Why do I know that name? It might have been the Coulter Twins. Jenny and the Gallions. It could have been the Coulter twins. Yeah. Maybe. Anyway, Nick died at a very young age. But he was on the group that had a bass player. The group was sort of Ernie Felice style. And for those of you who don't know Ernie Felice style, it was a Glenn Miller sound. Ernie Felice was an accordion player. And he used to make the chord but play the melody on the bottom. And the clarinet player used to play the melody on the top. Now, you couldn't double that top lead because it would lose the sound. Anyway, it was a sound that I fell in love with as a very young man. And I sort of styled a lot of stuff that I did after that, after Ernie Felice. Can I ask you something right here while I think of it? Sure. Two of the guys that really impressed me were Art Van Damme and Leon Sash. Right. Were they recording and playing when you were growing up? 5 Yes, they were. I thought they were. Yeah. Yes, they were. The funny thing is I was more of a — somehow I got into big band sounds when I first went to see Kenton at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. I drove down from college. It was just a wonderful, wonderful treat. But I've always been a guy that likes charts. Now, Van Damme did great charts and so forth, but it wasn't that big band sound. I was getting that big band sound from the Ernie Felice thing. Pardon me. It's my oxygen here. Too much linguini. You're going to have to lighten up on the clams. Right. Sash — excellent, very good. You know, George Shearing was an accordion player originally, too. There's a lot of people out there, good players, I mean really good players. Unfortunately, the accordion took a bad rap along the way, which happened to the lounges in Vegas, too. They took a bad rap, Saturday Night Live, those guys, Bill Murray, mainly I guess. Maybe deservedly so. I don't know. Yeah, maybe deservedly so. The bad players brought it on themselves. Right. That's true. Anyway, I thought it was a funny bit and I laughed, but it sort of took the shine away from that era. Yeah, of course. People don't realize how much effort goes into -- my wife is an accordionist. She's not certainly as accomplished as you are. But she could still pick up the axe and play. Unfortunately, her bosom precludes her getting inside the waffle-like accordion pleats. So you're not going to hear any screaming from our house. I wouldn't have any trouble. But it's a lot of work. I wouldn't have any trouble even if I wore the accordion lower. Yeah. That's a very, very inside joke. Yes, it is. Let me make a footnote here. You must have been working on your jazz chops because all that time you were teaching applied science. And you were not only getting paid to teach, but you were also playing while you were teaching. So that was good. 6 Right. Okay. Now, when I was in college, I would still go back and teach my students because the drive was only like maybe 25 minutes. So I could go back. And that's how I put myself through school. Then I used to go to work at night in Wilmington, Delaware, which was like another maybe 25 minutes the other way. And I'd work in a nightclub down there. There on night gig I played piano. I had a back show and played for some dance music. But I hardly got any sleep. Anyway, I put this group together as I mentioned before. We called it The Four Buds. We laugh about it today. We went on the road that summer, the first summer off from school. We didn't do too well because I wasn't doing comedy then. And I'll get into how that occurred later. But we had some good gigs and people that liked good sounds. And we always ran into one deejay in one city wherever we went that used to love it and he'd, you know, promote it. So by the end of the gig, you know, we had sort of a following. Developed a following. Yeah. Right. So anyway, we all went back to school for the second semester. We completed that. Meanwhile we were rehearsing. At the end of that we went out on the road again. And we never returned. The group eventually broke up. One guy went with another group. I went with another group. I'm trying to remember. I went with a group called the Mary Johnston — So now you're, what, 20, 21? About 21 now. And Mary Johnston's husband, Lloyd Johnston was a wonderful sax player and did charts for the Boyd Rayburn Band, which people don't remember. Oh, yes. "Celery Stalks at Midnight." Yeah. I have to backtrack. You asked me about the jazz, how I got into that. I became a fan of Lenny Cristiano's. And I was so intrigued with it. And my ears back in those days were pretty good. I could transcribe. I took all of his (singing). "Wow" I think it was called. And put it in the accordion. Yeah. But it was just ear training for me. In fact, when I went to college, the dictation teacher — dictation is where they play something on the piano and say, okay, this is -- let's see. What notes am I playing now? What chord? Well, I had no problem with that whatsoever. And the teacher picked up on that real fast. So what she did was she would give me another tonality. She would 7 say this is C, but she wasn't playing C. She was playing maybe E. So now I'm hearing it in E. So take the dictation. Now I have to transpose as I'm taking the dictation. Good challenge. Because I didn't have a movable dough. See, dough was dough to me, you know. Dough is pizza is what it was. Right. But it was a challenge and I learned a lot. All those little things that — I mean she didn't do it to be mean. She just — She wanted you to grow. She wanted me to grow. Otherwise, I wouldn't have because I couldn't do that stuff. You'd still be back there teaching if you hadn’t grown. Right. So what sometimes you think is somebody grabbing you a little bit, they're not. Just go with it, go with it. A gentle nudge. Yes. We all need that. Anyway, I went with the Mary Johnston group. Later I left that group and joined another group playing vibes and flugelhom. Now, I had never played — I had played a little trumpet. And this guy I joined, Charlie Morrison in Harrisburg had the Dale "Muscleman," Dale Moore. Remember Dale? I remember String Moore. Yes. And Dale, I loved Dale. Dale and I were on the same group, Charlie Morrison Group, for a couple of years. I learned an awful lot from Dale. Dale was a very funny man. And a great player. Right. But previous to that — I should say how the comedy thing really started. I was working at a club — I don't even recall where now. I think it was Harrisburg come to think of it — with this good sound, the Ernie Felice sound and everything. And we're dying, just dying. And we were working opposite another group that had funny hats and couldn't play more than three chords. But they had funny hats and they were breaking it up. They were entertaining. Entertaining. At that point I thought music was all I had to do. So I got drinking that night a little 8 bit too much. And I told the bass player, I said, when I tell you — the other group had just gotten off and they got all this applause and laughter. I said when I tell you turn on the spotlight, I'm going to do it. Now, I did a no-no. I took the guy's hat from the other group, put it on my head, told the guy turn it on, turned around, did what I thought was a funny face, which turned out to be a face that I've used ever since, as the dumb guy. And the people laughed. And then we did our set and they clapped for everything we did and I didn't do anymore. And all of a sudden it hit me, boom, boom, I broke the wall down. From that point I really started to leave music and head more toward the comedic area. This would be in the early to mid 50s, Blackie? Yeah. I would say that would have been about '51, '52, in that era. Now I spent a lot of time actually in front of a mirror to be honest with you. And I would make up just basic emotions and I'd try different faces. For some reason my face was adept to being able to be — what do you call it? — movable putty or — Flexible. Flexible. And all of a sudden I found a vehicle. Well, from that point I left the group — I didn't leave the group. I was in Florida starving with this group and we weren't getting paid half the time. The union was trying to run us out of town because they didn't want out-of-towners. Oh, all that stuff. And I got a call from a guy by the name of Carmen Baccari. Now, Carmen Baccari and Freddie Baccari were brothers and they had a group called the Noveliers. I hadn't met them along because we were booking through the same agency and they had seen me work. And I wasn't doing very many funny things at the time. I did a few. And they had seen me work. And their piano player was going to leave. They had just won the Arthur Godfrey Talent Show. But this guy wanted to leave. So they called me and said, oh, it would be nice to have an accordion because I was playing accordion at the time. And they couldn't get Vick Berry. There's a name on the list. Yeah. Right. Okay. So I'm in front and then he called me. And down there I was making when I got paid 80 bucks a week. And Carmen and Freddie called and said we'll make you an even split. You'll be making 150 a week. How did they hear about you? 9 Through the agency. Oh, they did? Through the mutual agent. You said that. Right. And they had run into me. We had sort of talked one time and sort of had a little rehearsal on the QT. That was on the group that Dale was on. And Dale was upstairs and he knew what was going on. But I didn't leave the group at that time. So anyway, I accepted the job. Drove back up. And we opened in Toronto, Canada. We rehearsed first in Philly where they were from, then drove to Toronto. And we only had to do like a short show — no. Montreal, Canada. Downbeat. And we were part of a show, which had different acts. We only had to do maybe 20 minutes so I didn't have to learn too many things. At that point I was doing the upside down piano bit, what they call the upside down where I lay underneath the piano and reached up and played. Very impressive. And I did the nose bit. And that's always a funny thing. Definitely Pete Barbutti plays better nose than I do. But I didn't take it from him and he didn't take it from me. It was something that we just - You fell into. - fell into. And we cared about it, whatever. Anyway, so we did a downbeat. Then along the way - the group was called the Noveliers — one of the brothers, Freddie, sort of got angry at me. I don't know how to say this. I was getting too many laughs I guess. You were upstaging him. I was upstaging him. And that's what I do. I mean for some reason. Yes. And very well. I don't know why — I know why I do it, because that's what I do. Anyway, that's what - when he left, when Freddie left we brought on a kid that we had run into in Washington, D.C. by the name of Johnny Ricco. Johnny Ricco was a wonderful singer, handsome kid. We brought him on. We still went by the name of the Noveliers. Now, Freddie wants to come back after about - and we're working in Toronto, Canada at the Prince George Hotel. But Freddie wanted to come back. So we took a vote and we all voted yes because we all liked Freddie. He came back. Now we had four guys. 10 Well, we had an offer to come to Vegas. No. Let me think there a second. We knew that Vegas would be — because it was really starting to come up. This is around '54. We decided to change the name because there was a group in Florida called the Novelettes that was doing quite well, Frankie Carr and those guys. And the Noveliers was just too close. So we changed it to The Four Guys. Well, Bill Miller, who was the entertainment director at the Sahara hotel here in Vegas, saw an Arthur Godfrey show right before our agent talked to him. And on that show was a group called The Four Guys, which consisted of two black guys and two white guys. It was not us. Well, our agent says, you know, I have a wonderful group back here, The Four Guys. Oh, yes. They book us for four weeks. Well, we come out and Bill comes out. And we're setting up and everything at the old lounge at the Sahara. And he just keeps looking and he's looking around. And he says — well, no, he didn't say anything until we did our first show. We opened on our knees, played a Toulouse-Lautrec song, (singing). I mean The Characters really did some strange stuff. And it was to get much stranger as we — because we were fairly new as a group. Taking chances. Taking chances. We did pretty good. After the show Bill Miller comes up to us and he says, you know, the act I booked, The Four Guys, had two black guys. He said this isn't the same act, is it? Did you just win the Arthur Godfrey Show? No. The Noveliers did, though, previously. He says I evidently booked the wrong act, but I'm picking up your options. Great. That must have made you feel great. Oh, jeez. Thank you, Jesus. Get off the road for a while. Oh, yes. That was it. And we stayed six months. We had another job we had to go back to at the Prince George Hotel in Toronto. We went back and did that gig and then were supposed to come back out. Carmen decides he was going to leave the business because, as most people in the business knew, Carmen was a Jehovah Witness. He believed that the end of the world was approaching. And he decided he was going to give up show business. So he went to Atlantic Refining School, took a course, and he ended up managing a gas station. Meanwhile — 11 That's a career move to go from a guitar player on the road to running a gas station. Meanwhile Johnny Ricco goes back to — his wife's folks lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey. So he went back there and he started gigging around. Freddie and I tried to do a team. I'm there with my accordion and he's there with his bass. And nobody knew who the funnyman was. Anyway, it was sort of stupid. Anyway, we had a lot of laughs afterwards, later. So things didn't quite work out. The world didn't come to an end. And the gas station business really got boring. Right. So we got back together. And we contacted powers that be at the Sahara and said we're available if you have any openings. So they booked us again and we stayed. We came out here — When did you change the name, Blackie? The name was changed almost immediately. I mean there are different stories. One story is like Bill Miller said, boy, you guys are characters and then it changed from that point. But I don't think that’s the real story. I think the real story happened when Stan Irwin was involved there. And Stan, who later became the entertainment director after Bill Miller, turned it over to Larry Sloan, who worked publicity at the Sahara. Now, Larry wrote the elephant joke books. That was his thing. I think the true story is really that he is the guy that came up with the name The Characters. Great name. Yep. And then it was me — I have to admit this; I have to blow my horn - that came up with the backward E. Great. Good hook. C-H-A-R-A-C-T, backward E, R-S. Perfect. And I became like the symbol of that E, the backward thing. Good. Out of sync. You were always out of sync. And if you look up here at Blackie's, you see the backward E. I do. I noticed that in my drunken state the other night. I said, hey, what's the matter with that E? I'm dyslexic. So everything to me is backwards. Oh, really? 12 Oh, yeah. Anyway, then the group stayed. We worked a minimum of six months a year at the Sahara for 13 years. The rest of the time being spent in Tahoe and Reno, which was probably the biggest mistake The Characters ever made by never really venturing out of the state. We just stayed here, made the money, blew the money. It's okay. Can I ask you something because most people are candid and I'm sure you will be? Sure. What's the best money you guys ever made at the Sahara? The best money we ever made? Best money you ever made. Before commish, the gross. Okay. I think the final figure was 5,000. I think it was up about — Was it? God, I thought you were making more than that. Of course, that was a lot of money 50 years ago. Yeah. Well, when Frank Ross and I went out — when I left The Characters, I went with Frank Ross from the Mary Kaye Trio. We opened at 5,000 a week. And there were only two of us. Plus we had to pay the band. So it was quite a jump. That only lasted two years unfortunately because I loved Frank dearly. Frank was a special kind of guy, very difficult to rehearse, which is — everybody knows that knows the thing. Well, you were both spontaneous. I think you're more the book guy. Yes. I'm more structured. Yeah, you are structured. But even so, you could still take a flight a fancy. But he was nuts coming out of the gate. Right. Frank would say anything or do anything or he'd light up a cigar on stage or -- and that was part of his charm. But you can't have two guys that are that disparate. I could be wrong, but I really give Frank Ross credit for Vegas lounges as far as comics, how they worked it. I really do. I have to give him the credit. Oh, he was really great. He made Mary and Norman look terrific. And they made him look 13 terrific vocally. To me that was the greatest group ever, to me. Oh, what a chemistry. That's because it was musical. That's not taking anything away from Louis Prima. That was a stylish type of thing. And a tight rehearsed band. And very good. Very, very good. Nothing wrong with it. Exciting, very exciting. Nobody knew how to work an audience better than Louis. He was the best. Go ahead. I broke your continuity. So now it's The Characters. Now you're doing pretty well. Of course, you're off the road and you're making a good living. Well, I left and did the two years with Frankie Ross. Then I rejoined The Characters again. This would have been about 1970, '71, '72, somewhere in there? No, no. Later? I tell you it was — yeah. About '70. I saw you with Frank and Lauri at Harrah's in Reno. Right. So that would have been somewhere in there. Yeah. I came back and then I rejoined them in Tahoe at the Sahara. And Sammy Davis used to come in and see us and he wanted to take us on the road with him, which we did. We went on tour. We went to Florida. We didn't do really good. Back in those days - see, The Characters were a visual, all visual really. And they didn't have the big screens as they do today in the theaters. And particularly we worked the O'Keefe Centre in Toronto, Canada. When you got up to the back row, man, how could you — You were an inch high. Inch high. Now, how could you see a face? It's like the Hollywood Bowl, 17,000 people. If you don't have binoculars and you're in the back row... 14 So anyway, we got panned in Toronto. And I'm